I don’t know what the plan is and perhaps there is a lot going on behind the scenes, but what I can tell you right now is that it does not appear that the Imam controversy is going away any time soon. There continue to be several letters a week pushing back on the issues, and I will shortly address two of them from the past week here.
From my standpoint, I took the Imam’s apology at face value. I believe he got angry over the situation in Israel, I believe he lashed out in sermon, I believe he acted in haste and in anger and it overrode his better judgment. To me it’s less important whether he felt those things in his heart than whether he learned from his experience.
Therefore, in my view, he’s a young guy and if he can learn from his experience, then we can move on.
But at the same time, even during the press conference, I think we have to take the points made by Mayor Robb Davis and Rabbi Seth Castleman into account.
Robb Davis offered that we would hear an apology. He asked, “Is it enough?” And the answer he offered was, “No it is not.” He added, “The hurts are deep. Words were spoken that are harmful and hurtful. One statement cannot be enough.”
For those wanting an apology – it was a start. Standing behind the Imam as he spoke were religious leaders, community leaders and elected officials. The group came together and worked through the language and hashed out an agreement.
But, as Rabbi Castleman then pointed out, “As you know as well as I, apologies are only as worthy as the actions that follow. So I call upon you, I implore you to follow up those words with actions.
“Nothing less than that will satisfy the community that you serve and I serve,” he said.
These were warnings from two men who know the community and, while compassionate and understanding about the Imam’s apology and remorse, they implored him to go further.
And so when Tom Frankel, a community member and retired attorney, asks the question, “Is this all there is from imam, Islamic Center?” I have to agree with them – there needed to be more, and in public.
Mr. Frankel writes, “Several weeks have passed since Imam Ammar Shahin aggressively announced to his mosque members that all Jews must be destroyed. Our community and nation seem to have moved on to other issues. There are many to choose from.”
(This is another part of the problem, the Imam controversy happened in late July and then August happened and we have become consumed with other issues).
However, at the core, I think he asks the important question: “Are we satisfied that sufficient resolution has been accomplished to the hate speech and ‘apology’ from Imam Shahin has been accomplished? I sincerely hope not.
“Our community, and specifically the Muslim community connected with Imam Shahin, has been mostly silent since the quasi press conference after the horrendous comments of the imam. Do we leave things as they are?” Mr. Frankel continues.
“The Jewish community morally deserves an apology for the actual words expressed on two occasions. Anything less is unacceptable. We cannot be satisfied with a statement that does not say his words were wrong,” he writes.
“We must see actions from the imam showing that he is truly sorry and that he seeks our forgiveness. In addition, the broader Muslim community from the Islamic Center of Davis, including its governing board, must step forward, publicly identify itself, and specifically repudiate the words of Imam Shahin. Otherwise, they would be saying that they support what he said,” Mr. Frankel continues. “It is critical to focus on the words, not — as already has been done — on the pain that was caused by those words.”
Bottom line, maybe there is more happening behind the scenes, but, if they are behind the scenes, no one in the Jewish community and no one I have talked to seems to know of them. We need more. The community is saying that we need to do more here and I couldn’t agree more.
A side issue has been who has been behind the push for protests to oust the Imam. The Vanguard published a piece from Gail Rubin and pushed back ourselves over what we saw as more moral equivalency comparing antifa and BLM to the KKK and neo-Nazis.
A letter appearing this weekend suggests that a piece from Alan Hirsch, who sits on the Vanguard Editorial Board, was inaccurate in pointing to CUFI (Christians United for Israel) as the organizers of the Aug. 9 demonstration at Russell Boulevard and B Street against Imam Ammar Shahin’s recent call to kill Jews.
Gail Rubin, the letters says, has already clarified in her August 16 Vanguard article that she was the organizer of the event.
The letter attacks Mr. Hirsch for spending his commentary criticizing CUFI and “their outsider presence in this demonstration.” The letter writer notes, “The only point I can see to such a long and detailed critique of CUFI is that it was an effort to discredit and dismiss the point of the demonstration, whose participants were mostly neither CUFI members nor outsiders.”
A key point, I think, is that “many Davis people in addition to the demonstrators are still outraged that Imam Shahin, the religious leader of so many young people in Davis, could call for genocide of all Jews by all Muslims and remain a religious leader, regardless of his newly found insight that that call might have caused hurt feelings. That was the point of the demonstration, not whether or not you like CUFI.”
A key point I would continue to make is that the Imam needs to do more – much more.
At Farmer’s Market, a longtime resident who is ethnically Jewish but also quite progressive pointed out that, back in January, the Mosque received thousands of dollars and had many supporters when it was vandalized. He believes that next time their Mosque gets attacked, the community will be much more reluctant to have its back.
That is the damage done by this incident and a good number of people in the community are still angry about that. That is a legitimate view.
I am still personally disappointed that the Mosque itself has not issued any sort of apology or pledged to rectify the situation.
Things are festering and the time is quickly passing to put this unfortunate incident behind us.
—David M. Greenwald reporting